Van Cliburn Silver Medalist Kenny Broberg On Taking Performances 'One Step At A Time'

Jul 26, 2017

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition has been described as the Olympics for pianists. It's a grueling process to even make the cut. 

This year, nearly 300 pianists applied, 146 were selected for live screening auditions, and 30 were invited to Fort Worth, Texas, in May. And then the competition gets underway: 17 days, with four elimination rounds, and millions of people watching around the world

Up To Date host Steve Kraske asked Kenny Broberg, a Park University graduate student who won the silver medal at the competition, how he handled the pressure. 

"One step at a time, I guess, handling one performance at a time," said Broberg. "I had a lot of good support from my teacher, Stanislav Ioudenitch, and from my family, and all my other colleagues at Park University."

Ioudenitch, who heads up the piano studio at Park's International Center for Music, won the gold medal at the Van Cliburn competition in 2001. 

All Cliburn medalists are awarded three years of career management, a recording contract, and a cash prize. As a silver medalist, Brobern received $25,000 in cash, and he's booked for more than a dozen performances across the U.S. and in Europe. A debut solo album will be released in August by Decca Gold.  

Van Cliburn silver medalist Kenny Broberg studies at Park University International Center for Music.
Credit courtesy Park University

Broberg shared some of his competition strategies with Up To Date: 

On getting ready 

"Hours and hours of preparation every day. I practice five to six hours a day. And this doesn't really change after the competition. I go back to doing the same thing, because now I have concerts to play, which is even better." 

On warming up his fingers with a hair dryer

"I'm paranoid about getting on stage and my hands not being warm. When you get nervous, your blood flows to your heart, your blood flows away from your extremities. So it's really easy for you to be really warmed up, and then, go out on stage and all of a sudden you don't feel like you're warm at all."

On establishing a routine

"Most (Van Cliburn) performances are at night. You get up early in the morning, you practice ... You go to the rehearsal, and then you take a nap afterwards, and then you listen back to the recording of yourself. Because that helps you hear what it sounds like from the audience out in the hall.

"I like to eat a baked potato, and make sure to get some protein, too, before I play. A lot of people don't like to eat right before they play ... but I feel like I need the energy. I usually eat a banana like 10 minutes before I go onstage, backstage." 

Listen to the entire Up To Date conversation here

Park University International Center for Music graduate student Kenny Broberg performs in concert on Sunday, September 10, at 4 p.m. at the Folly Theater, 1020 Central, Kansas City, Missouri. Tickets go on sale on August 1. 816-474-4444. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.